The Modern Psychonaught: Obsessions with isolation tank therapy

      Ever since the creation of the isolation tank in 1954 by Dr. John C. Lilly and the research that followed, a fringe group of people began to create an experiment with their own forms of isolation tanks inspired by the initial research.


      Dr Lilly was a pioneer of this method, his aim was to find out what happens to the human body when introduced to an environment with minimal to no outside stimulation. From this, the creation of a sound and light proof tank, filled with warm salt water which induced weightless flotation, became the basis for his study.

      Dr Lilly was the first to act as a subject to this research, alongside another colleague. Similar research at the time once coined as perceptual isolation, then later sensory deprivation, became known from Lilly himself as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (R.E.S.T).

      Lilly continued to use the tank even following the research, which led him to report on various strange experiences, such as spending so much time in complete sensory deprivation, he reported experiencing what he interpreted as interacting with creatures from other dimensions and advanced  civilisations. Such reports triggered a tiny fringe following, and of these people, many developed their own isolation tanks themselves in garages and basements, hoping to experience the same, or at least similar effects.

      The fringe group who continued experimenting with an isolation tank remained rather well unknown, until such time as well known comedian Joe Rogan, made public comment on his use of isolation tanks, whereby he explained the use of DMT, a potent psychoactive drug which induces experiences which can explain Lilly’s reported effects without isolation or sensory deprivation, he went on to recommend using DMT in an isolation tank, however in a documentary produced by VICE Media in 2013, Joe Rogan denied ever using DMT in an isolation tank, along with describing such an event as expected to be something like a rollercoaster (by means of non-recommendation).

      He rather replaced such recommendations with the use of an isolation tank when smoking cannabis and also sober to induce mental and physical relaxation and recovery. He went on to explain how he would consume hash based edibles before spending time in the tank, and experience strange cartoon-like visuals, which would come and go during the experience.


      It was, however, initial reports from Joe Rogan, based on a possible non-event of consuming DMT inside an isolation tank, that provoked an uprising of interest in Isolation Tanks / Chambers and pushed the knowledge of such devices almost directly into the mainstream, establishing today’s modern industry of Floatation Tank / Isolation Tank sales, rental services and modern research.

      Regardless of the truth vs entertainment value of the original comments, it is unlikely such an explosion of interest would have occurred if Joe Rogan had not made such comments during a radio show over a decade ago.

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